Are you looking at your used shoes and wondering how to bring them back to life? Maybe you found a great pair of vintage Doc Martens, but they need a little refresh. And by little refresh, we mean you might need to clear out the tiny ecosystem living and thriving on them.

Don't worry, we've all been there. The good news is that giving your used shoes a fresh start is easy with just a few simple steps.

Imagine slipping into a pair of used shoes that fit comfortably (because someone else broke them in) and are also clean and fresh smelling. With these tried and true steps, you can turn even the sketchiest pair of used shoes into something you can be proud of. Plus, you’ll be wrapping up a science experiment gone wrong, and who doesn’t feel good about that?

If you're looking for an easy and affordable way to make your used shoes look brand new again, you're in the right place. Get ready to say goodbye to dirt and hello to sparkling clean footwear.

What’s the Solution?

The problem with most used shoes is that their dark history starts showing.

You want to wear your “new to you” shoes out on the town, but you’re embarrassed to be seen in them in their current condition. Maybe you’ve even thought about cleaning them but don’t know where to start.

It's time to give those shoes the deep cleaning they deserve. With the tools and techniques outlined below, you can remove stains, dirt, and odors and restore your shoes to their former glory. So, grab your cleaning supplies, and let's get to work!

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

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Before you begin cleaning your shoes, make sure you have the following supplies on hand:

1. Dry Brush: This will be used to brush away the first layer of dirt and debris from the outside of the shoes.

  1. Soft-Bristled Brush or Old Toothbrush: This will be used to gently scrub away dirt and debris from the outside of the shoes.
  2. Cleaning Solution: The type of cleaning solution you need will depend on the material of your shoes. Consider the following options:
  1. Cleaning Cloth or Sponge: Use a cleaning cloth or sponge to apply the cleaning solution to your shoes and scrub gently but firmly to loosen dirt and grime.
  2. Clean Towel: Keep a clean towel nearby to rinse any excess soap from your shoes. Rinse and wring out the towel multiple times during this step to ensure all soap residue is removed.
  3. Newspaper or Similar Material: You will need this to stuff the shoes for air drying.
  4. Non-Porous Sheet: It's a good idea to protect the surface you're working on with a non-porous sheet to prevent any mess.
  5. Shoe Protectants (Optional): If you want to give your shoes extra protection and shine after cleaning, consider having the following products available:
    • Leather Conditioner: If you have leather shoes, consider using a leather conditioner to restore moisture and protect the leather from drying out or cracking.
    • Water Repellent Spray: Canvas or fabric shoes can benefit from a water-repellent spray or fabric protector spray to guard against water damage and stains.
    • Suede Protector Spray: For suede shoes, a suede protector spray can help repel water and protect against stains.
    • Shoe Protector Spray: For shoes made of other materials like rubber or synthetics, a shoe protector spray can safeguard against water and other stains.
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By gathering these supplies beforehand, you'll be well-prepared to clean and maintain your used shoes effectively.

Step 2: Remove the Laces

This may seem like an unnecessary step, but trust us, it makes all the difference. By removing the laces, you can clean every nook and cranny of your shoes without any pesky strings getting in the way. Plus, it's also an excellent opportunity to give your laces a good wash.

Pro Tip: It's a good idea to protect the surface you're working on with a non-porous sheet to prevent any mess.

Step 3: Grab a Dry Brush

First things first, give those shoes a good brush down. Use the dry brush to gently remove any dirt or debris stuck to the outside of the shoes. This will help loosen any tough stains and make the rest of the cleaning process much more manageable.

Step 4: Choose Your Cleaning Solution

When it comes to cleaning used shoes, the type of cleaning solution you use will depend on the material of your shoes. Here are a few options to consider:

  1. For Leather Shoes: A mixture of warm water and mild soap (like dish soap or leather cleaner) will remove dirt and grime without damaging the leather. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as these can strip the leather of its natural oils and cause it to become dry and brittle.
  2. For Canvas or Fabric Shoes: A gentle detergent (like dish soap or shoe cleaner) will do the trick. Avoid using bleach or other harsh chemicals, as these can cause the color of your shoes to fade or bleed.
  3. For Suede Shoes: Using the right tools and techniques is essential. A specialized suede cleaner and a soft-bristled brush are essential for safely removing dirt and stains without damaging the material. To use the cleaner, simply follow the instructions on the bottle. Some cleaners may need to be sprayed onto the shoes, while others may require you to dip a cloth or brush into the solution and apply it that way.
  4. For Shoes Made of Rubber or Synthetics: A gentle soap and water mixture, like what you would use for leather shoes, applied with a cloth or brush with a light scrub. Alternatively, you can use a specialized shoe cleaner to thoroughly clean your shoes. Just follow the instructions on the bottle carefully to ensure you're using the cleaner correctly.

Remember, it's always a good idea to test a small, inconspicuous spot on your shoes before applying the cleaning solution to the entire shoe to ensure it won't cause any damage. And protect the surface you’re working on with either newspaper or a non-porous sheet.

Step 5: Get Scrubbing

Now that you've chosen the right cleaning solution for your used shoes, it's time to get scrubbing. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Use a clean cloth or sponge to apply the cleaning solution to your shoes, paying extra attention to any particularly dirty or scuffed areas.
  2. Scrub (with a soft-bristled brush or old toothbrush) gently but firmly to loosen up any dirt or grime that may be stuck to the surface of your shoes.
  3. When cleaning suede shoes, begin by gently dry-brushing in the direction of the nap to avoid damaging the nap. You want to remove all surface debris before applying any cleaner. Then apply the cleaner according to the instructions and gently scrub in a circular motion to remove embedded stains.
  4. Rinse any excess soap with a wet clean towel (wring out as much water as possible). Rinse and ring out the towel a few times during this step. Soap left behind can attract funky odors (and no one wants that).

If your shoes are particularly dirty or smelly, you may need to repeat this step a few times to get them looking and smelling their best.

Step 6: Dry Time

Once you've finished scrubbing and rinsing, allow your shoes to air dry completely before wearing them again. Avoid using heat sources, such as a hairdryer, direct sunlight, or radiator, as these can cause some materials to become stiff and brittle. A little trick to speed up the process is to stuff your shoes with a clean cloth or newspaper, both act as moisture absorbers.

Step 7: Protect and Shine

Once your used shoes are clean and dry, giving them a little extra protection and shine is a good idea to help them last longer and look their best. Here are a few options to consider:

  1. Leather Conditioner: If you have leather shoes, a leather conditioner can help to restore moisture and protect the leather from drying out or cracking.
  2. Water Repellent Spray: Canvas or fabric shoes can benefit from a water repellent spray or fabric protector spray, which will help to protect them from water damage and stains.
  3. Suede Protector Spray: For suede shoes, you can use a suede protector spray to help repel water and protect against stains.
  4. Shoe Protector Spray: For shoes made of other materials, such as rubber or synthetics, you can use a shoe protector spray to help protect against water and other stains.

For all these products, follow the instructions on the bottle for the best results, and dry completely before wearing your shoes again. Test the solution on a small out-of-the-way area before treating your entire shoe. And if possible, complete this step outside where there is better ventilation and surfaces won’t be damaged.

Tips from Our Editors

  1. Tackle Stubborn Stains with A Specialized Remover: These products target tough stains and help lift them from the material. To use a stain remover, follow the instructions on the bottle and spot test first.
  2. Tackle Stubborn Odors with White Vinegar: To use vinegar to deodorize your shoes, simply add a small amount (a few tablespoons should do the trick) to your cleaning solution. Check the label on your cleaning solution first. You don’t want to combine vinegar with any solution containing bleach, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, or castile soap. Rinse/wipe the shoes thoroughly to remove any residual vinegar smell and allow them to air dry completely before wearing them again.

On a Final Note

Well, folks, it looks like our science experiment gone wrong has finally ended. And by the end, we mean those Poshmark steals are finally clean. It's like a whole new pair of shoes! Or, you know, an old pair of shoes that's been given a second chance at life. Either way, we did it!

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